I’ll be the first to admit that as a hardened cynical member of the grungiest contingent of Gen X, I’m not one to put much importance on advertisements. Don’t need no one shouting at me to buy their thing, I know what I need to buy, thank you very much. Therefore, unless they make me laugh, I tend to ignore ads, fast forward, skip over, keep walking. Come to think of it, laughter is the one and only emotional impulse worth weaving into whatever you’re selling to a woman of my demographic. You’re welcome marketers.
We hear that the best ads, be they video or print, are designed to imprint a brand on our consciousness by wrapping it up in a story. The lanky model gliding down curved neo-renaissance marble stairs? Why, look, how elegant and worldly you’ll be if you only buy this perfume! The sweaty sports guy kicking ass in some random sport? Why, if you drink the stuff he drinks, you just may kick ass too!
My cynicism ran deep and true. That is, until I started following this star you see up there in this blog’s header. He didn’t need to do any selling as far as I was concerned, but I did slowly realize the fact of life that many a millenial has caught on to decades before I ever did. Folks who want to succeed, particularly in competitive, highly visible fields in the limelight, do need to brand themselves and sell themselves. And shows that said people are on need to do promos to get the buzz going. Since I started writing for this blog, ads that I would’ve once ignored or derided are suddenly requiring second and third looks and lengthy discussions about what it all means. Especially when a certain someone is featured in them. Yes, I know, I know, an ad featuring Damian Lewis is just another hammer hitting another kind of reflex meant to elicit a particular response from a woman of my demographic. But it’s not just *that*, okay? (Doth the lady protest too much? Eh, probably.)
There seem to be two different and unique types of show promotion. 1) previews showing actual scenes cut and pasted, often non-chronologically, overlayed with actual dialogue from the story and 2) promos with characters looking right at the screen talking about their motivations and/or actors talking about the roles and the story interspersed with images of them hamming it up for a still camera. Funny, is it not, the voyeuristic draw of watching a moving picture of a bunch of beautiful people posing for a still camera? There must be an industry term distinguishing these two categories of promotion which I am not privy to. Regardless, Showtime in general and Billions in particular has been pulling out some exceedingly watchable versions of both categories of promo three of them being Billions | Season 2 First Takes , Billions | ‘Attack, Conquer, Destroy’ Tease | Season 2 and a short clip on sho_billions instagram.
This staging has our guy remarking:
Reminded me of the steps of the senate in ancient Rome…thank God no one’s in a toga
Now, who’s to say that the set folk, when they pulled out the props, had the intention to make them look like the steps of ancient Rome. My bet is they probably just had something lying around that would fit everyone and create the feeling of depth you need when you have so many bodies in one shot. It’s Damian’s imagination that saw it as steps of Rome. And it’s my imagination that allows (compels!) me to take the metaphor further in positing that a show like Billions is ostensibly about the highly detailed, richly peopled, and persistently engrossing back room machinations that pile up, one on top of another, and eventually lead to the fall of an empire. Just like ancient Rome. Maybe.
The second promo is where we get the characters looking right at us under some choice bits of dialogue. When there isn’t dialogue, there are the sounds of knives leaving sheaths as the four main characters are slipping into pieces of their jewelry / armor. There are also cash register sounds I think, or a lever pull of an old fashioned adding machine. Money counting and sword play. Nice aural bits punctuating the themes of this show!
I made mention of the women’s jewelry last season. Namely, how Lara had sort of a hippie boho style with rounded pendants and thicker chains, while Wendy’s jewelry was more slick, angular, polished, with pendants resembling medical instruments. I don’t think we ever talked about Bobby’s necklace though. We did notice it last season. I don’t recall him ever not wearing it, and, in one scene at least, the scene when he was in conference with Orrin Bach as he’s getting dressed in a locker room, the necklace was the first thing Bobby slipped on.
Now, my experience of men’s jewelry is that it’s rarely just ornamental. It usually means something. The wedding ring, yes, obvious significance there. A man’s watch is often a sort of personal mark of style and temperament. As for the less utilitarian pieces, like bracelets and necklaces, which often are not even visible under men’s clothing, unless the weight and temperature of the jewelry’s material provides some sort of sensory pleasure, why even bother? That is, unless it means something. Since some attention has been called to Bobby’s necklace last season, and, now, even more so in this promo, it must mean something, right?
Reverse image search was no help, all the more reason to suspect that the pendant was specially designed for Bobby and this show. At first it looked like a bulldog or a bull. But on closer inspection, one can see the outline of a four legged beast with a human figure or figures riding it or a human somehow integrated into the beast. Maybe it’s a centaur? So, is Bobby a Sagittarius (centaur) without bow and arrow and with Taurus tendencies (bull)? If it is a bull at all, is it a talisman for a bullish market?
I took a detour to see if it could be a family coat of arms or crest. That lead me on the path of finding the origin of the Axelrod name: German/Jewish. And its meaning: “dweller at the clearing by the ash trees; one who made wheel axles”. Alas, I found no family crest matching what is depicted on Bobby’s necklace.
Back to centaurs then. We got sidetracked a bit with the idea of two human torsos on one beastly body. We came upon an image of two centaurs, one male, one female, going at it. And by “it” I mean “it”. Now, you would expect Chuck to secretly wear such iconography but nothing about Bobby has hinted in the least bit about his proclivities in terms of “it”. I liked the idea of the centaur Chiron giving a ride to a young Achilles.
Bobby loves his kids, but would he get a pendant symbolizing fatherhood? Probably not. He’s hardly the father figure that Chiron apparently was. I did find this trait of centaurs which seemed to fit Bobby Axelrod rather well:
Because they are of the earth, the attributes can verge on the somewhat ‘immoral’ – meaning they are a law unto themselves – and even reckless, they can be warlike or courageous.
Then there’s the idea of David and Goliath, which makes a lot of sense, of course. But, that would mean a beastly incarnation of Goliath, who was a human in lore, right? And is Bobby David or Goliath? (this may very well be the central question of the series)
What of the pyramid looking thing behind the figures? Our minds went to the pyramid on U.S. currency.
The pyramid represents strength and durability and is incomplete because so is the work of building the nation. The eye in the triangle is the all-seeing eye of providence. The eye and pyramid have links to Freemasonry. The eye is said to be a symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe, i.e., God.
So while not overtly the symbol of the mason’s which is a square ruler and compass, their ideals do match Bobby’s: belief in no authority but God. Alas, we’re getting into Dan Brown territory here. And what if it’s not a pyramid at all? Maybe it’s a conifer tree? A frolicking centaur in a Northwest forest? What could that possibly mean?
There’s also the writing around the figure to figure out. All we can make out is the word “way” at the bottom.
Thus, the mystery remains!
The clip on sho_billions instagram is short and sweet, insofar as Bobby Axelrod can be sweet.
I don’t want to be subtle. I want him to know it’s me.
No worries there Mr. Axelrod. We all know it’s you.
Last but not least, let’s point out that Billions made it into three best of 2016 lists! Washington Post’s The best TV shows of 2016, Variety‘s The 20 Best New TV Shows of 2016, and from Uproxx Our Writers Offer Their Picks For The Best New TV Shows Of 2016.
Gotta love it when the legit reviewers confirm what we already know. 🙂
ETA: Excites me to no end to be able to add this ETA. One of our readers solved the mystery of the pendant! It’s a St. Christopher medal.
Which may mean that Bobby is Catholic and his patron saint is St. Christopher. Alternatively, the pendant could have belonged to someone who was very important to Bobby. One can’t not imagine the possibility that it was recovered from the wreckage of 9/11, worn by someone close to Bobby who was lost when the towers fell. Pure speculation. Some info for the non-Catholics among us:
The Saint Christopher medal is worn by members of the Catholic Church as an appeal to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. By showing their devotion to the saint in this manner, Catholics believe he will bless them and protect them from storms and other hardships they may encounter.
Thank you again to the dear reader who somehow made sense of a blurry still shot!!!